Category Archives: Writing

Theatre Review: Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui

I’m branching out of my comfort zone of books to talk about other things.  I go along to quite a few plays held in Melbourne subscribing to seven or so plays a year with the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC).  I’ve seen some fantastic productions, none more so than the current play, Black is the New White.

While it is a long play, at two hours and thirty minutes, (including a twenty-minute intermission) and I hear the collective groan, it’s one of the most face-paced, hilarious, and subversive two hours that you’re ever likely to encounter for quite some time.

So what’s it about?

Charlotte Gibson, a successful lawyer has fallen in love with Francis Smith, an unemployed but highly talented experimental composer. They attend her affluent parents’ holiday house for Christmas extending an invitation to Francis’ parents. Charlotte’s father Ray, an ex-politician has grand plans for Charlotte as the next female Indigenous Waleed Aly on prime time television. But Ray doesn’t know that his daughter has other ideas for her life including marriage to Francis who happens to be the son of Ray’s political nemesis,  Dennison Smith. The skeletons come flying out of the closet thick and fast.

What follows is a tussle between the families which provides the perfect backdrop for a brilliantly funny play. The play has been described as a cross between Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Meet the Fockers. But it’s so much more than that. It’s insight with satire at its best.

Lui drills down on being indigenous and white particularly in middle-class Australia. The issues are even broader than race and are no less blunt and direct turning a mirror on all of us in an utterly explicit way.   Indeed it’s a play of the current day adding to the conversation of racism, equality, feminism, generation gaps and class and privilege. There’s no pussyfooting around the blunt, confronting and the thought-provoking messages poking fun yet involving us all.

Starring, Miranda Tapsell as Charlotte and Tony Briggs as Ray, the acting by all the players was brilliant; slapstick and nudity included. The set is wonderful and the dialogue tight. It’s refreshing to see a play like this.

If you’re in Melbourne or coming to visit, get along to this one for a very enjoyable evening. It runs until 9 November 2019.

https://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/season-2019/black-is-the-new-white/

A Perfect Stone: Special Offer For 5 Days Only

 

How quickly a year passes. It’s the first anniversary since the launch of A Perfect Stone. So what’s happened in the last twelve months?

The cover received a Gold Star Award in the E-book Cover Design Awards for December 2018.

It was shortlisted for Book of the Month in July 2019 by Discovering Diamonds in England.

The reviews have been wonderful:

‘the author wastes not a word in evoking sympathy for those most vulnerable members of society,’ Helen

‘I loved the writing and the fastidious research and simply couldn’t put it down.‘ Meredith

‘This is a wonderful book. It is informative, wrenching and hopeful. A must-read.‘ Sara

‘ a vivid and engaging novel that brims with believable characters and a great deal of observational wisdom.’ Clare

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41543705-a-perfect-stone

 

We’d like to celebrate by heavily discounting the ebook for the next five days only from Amazon.

 

 

 

Movie Review: Ad Astra

Who doesn’t love a good old science fiction space film? There have been a few, Gravity, Interstellar and of course my personal favourite, The Martian. So I was looking forward to checking out the latest space movie, Ad Astra.

Ray McBride (played by Brad Pitt) is an astronaut who follows in his famous father’s footsteps. His father, Clifford McBride (played by Tommy Lee Jones)is revered by all for his space research and is given the assignment to captain the Lima project to find out if there is any life out there. The mission is sent to the edge of the solar system and there’s been no contact for over sixteen years until a series of power surges strong enough to threaten human life occurs. The authorities believe the source of the surges comes from the Lima project space station somewhere near Neptune. So begins Roy’s mission to reach his father, stop the power surges and at the same time, deal with his feelings of abandonment and loss and work out why he can’t maintain a relationship with anyone especially his ex-wife Eve (played by Liv Tyler).

The opening of the film shows Roy climbing some sort of scaffold which is high enough in the earth’s atmosphere to warrant a spacesuit. Extraordinarily, the scaffold seems to be rising up from the earth which would be one hell of a climb. A surge shakes the structure and Roy falls. Luckily he has a parachute and although falling pieces of metal damage the parachute as he plummets to earth, he somehow survives virtually unscathed. But let’s move on.

The setting is described as some time in the near future but the commercial Virgin flight to the Moon and the fifteen hundred people living on Mars tells you it might be set in fifty plus years. Donned in a space suit, Roy asks the Virgin hostess for a blanket pack and she shoots back by telling him that’ll cost him $125. Why he needed a blanket over his space suit, I don’t know.

Once Roy reaches the Moon he has to take a rocket from a top-secret location to Mars. He and an old friend of his dad’s Colonel Pruitt (Donald Sutherland) are escorted in moon buggies across rugged terrain to the top-secret rocket site and of course, are chased by moon pirates. Why? I don’t know. Did it add to the tension? It only added to the implausibility. Of course, everyone dies and with Roy taking over the driving he and the Colonel manage to get there in one piece. Or did they? Why someone like Colonel Pruitt who must be eighty-five plus and barely able to walk is accompanying Roy is strange? Now I’m not trying to be ageist but I’d imagine peak physical and mental fitness would be a given to work in space. Surely Pruitt would have hung up his spacesuit years ago.

Anyway, Pruitt can’t go to Mars – he has to have an operation and of course, he isn’t fit. Space Alert! He was never fit! Roy heads off to Mars as a VIP in the secret space rocket. On the way, the Captain receives a mayday call from a Norwegian biomedical research space station. He decides to investigate but the co-pilot is too scared to spacewalk over and knock on the door, so Roy volunteers. After a tussle with a couple of mutant apes, Roy comes back to the ship with the dead Captain. After a funeral, a few words to God and jettisoning the body, the co-pilot proceeds to Mars only to freeze in fear when another power surge shakes the ship so they can’t land. You guessed it! Good ol’ Roy takes over because he can basically do everything.

Once on Mars, Roy’s mission is meant to end when he records a message to his father in the hope the authorities can trace where the old man is and finish him off. Why Roy had to go to Mars to do this simple task is anybody’s guess. Technology can get a rocket to Mars it seems, but not a recorded message.

Of course, Roy has to get off Mars, appropriate another rocket, accidentally kill a few crew members, including the scaredy-cat co-pilot, (whoops) and head to Neptune in seventy-nine days to find his father, nuke his ship, stop the surges and bring the old man home to face the music. How does a little spaceship in Neptune create powerful enough surges to almost wipe out the human race? Who the hell knows?

You’ve got to take an enormous leap of faith with this movie and I guess that’s the same for all space movies. But in this case, the leap is much larger than most. Throw away all logical rationale and those pesky questions for which you will get no answers and enjoy the ride through the beauty that is the solar system. The effects are as you would expect, the acting is strong enough and the dialogue is sparse with lots of close-ups of Brad’s face and a tear or two.

This really is a story about a man’s conflicted feelings about his father, his boyhood hero. He just happens to be dealing with it in space. In all those days of space travel, Roy has plenty of time to ponder on his relationships trying to come to terms with who he is and who he wants to be.

You’ll have to check it out if you want to know if he makes peace with his dad, if anyone can really hear you scream in space and if the Lima mission really did find out if there was anyone else out there. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

Restaurant Review: Rokkbank & Co, 334 Clarendon St, South Melbourne.

 

I know my reviews are usually confined to books but I thought I’d branch out this week and for those of you who live in Melbourne, this one’s for you. For everyone else, perhaps you might be enticed to visit our beautiful city.

Last week I had the pleasure of dining at Rokkbank & Co with a group of friends. Walking through the front door we were led down an aisle where the glass floor revealed a well-lit room containing an impressive wine cellar. We were shown to a large booth of luxurious green velvet.

Author Pic: Underground Cellar (yes, that’s my foot at the bottom of the pic)

The first thing I noticed in this full restaurant was the noise. There was none! Just a low murmuring from other diners and soft background music subtle enough without being intrusive. What a pleasure to eat, drink and talk in surroundings where you can actually hear each other. We knew we’d be in for a perfect evening when our attentive waiter, David explained patiently what was on offer and our stomachs rumbled with anticipation. No sharing tonight, we got to order exactly as we pleased and because we were a party of eight, there was no compulsion for a set menu as so many restaurants require. Not that you can’t have a degustation menu if you wanted it because it was certainly available for $130 per person. But that wasn’t what we were after.

Our first course choices were varied and ranged from oysters, Japanese seafood plate, quail, duck eggs to name a few. The prices were reasonable ranging from $16 (for the soup) to $26 (for the Japanese seafood plate). Being a cold night I chose Cream Jerusalem Artichoke Soup Panko crumbed marinated goats cheese, shiso, and toasted pine nuts. When it arrived there was the cheese and toasted pine nuts and just as I opened my mouth to say something, David swooped in and poured the soup into the bowl (see pic below).

Photo from Rokkbank Webpage Artichoke Soup

I’m still thinking about that soup and could have licked the bowl but of course, didn’t. Some of my friends ordered the Blue Swimmer Crab wonton ravioli. The servings were generous and delicious, particularly when paired with a rose.

Authors Pic: Blue Swimmer Crab Wonton Ravioli

The main course choices were equally interesting and ranged in price from $32 to $ 39.  I chose the Roasted Western Plains suckling pig saddle and barbecued leg while others selected White Miso baked Japanese black cod fillet or slow-cooked lamb shank. Again, generously portioned so much so we could barely fit in dessert. But in the interests of checking out the full menu, we forced ourselves to share two desserts and with eight spoons we weren’t disappointed.

Author Pic: Suckling Pig Saddle

Chef Brendan McQueen has certainly provided a menu of interesting dishes with Japanese and Asian influences with the freshest of ingredients. The cocktails are interesting and there is a bar for a pre-dinner drink and the wine list is good. We’ll be heading back there again, I hope very soon.

Check it out https://www.rokkbank.com/ and enjoy.

Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

 

As I was coming out of this film, I heard the woman in front of me say, “What the fuck was that about?” You would think that after sitting in a movie theatre for two hours and forty-five minutes, the woman would know. She didn’t and neither did I.

Sadly, the latest Tarantino film failed to deliver much of a storyline. Set in 1969, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a washed-up actor, who begins to realise his stardom is waning in a changing world. Yet he seems to be very much in demand and working – what more does an actor want? Stunt man turned personal assistant, protector and long-time friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is at Rick’s beck and call. Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) happens to live next door to Rick. And that is about it. We watch a series of vignettes. Rick’s day to day struggles and his interactions with other stars. We spend an inordinate amount of time watching him making a B-grade Western. Cliff makes friends with a girl who lives on a ranch where Charles Manson lives who we glimpse now and then. When we think the story is finally going to head somewhere, we’re let down because it doesn’t lead anywhere.

The scenes with Sharon Tate had promise but mostly we got a long tedious look at her walking down a street in a mini-skirt; riding in a convertible; in a movie theatre watching a movie of herself. Margot Robbie really gets little dialogue and not a lot to do. Yet she still manages to light up the screen. It’s a pity that the Sharon Tate story wasn’t used to full effect because, in my opinion, this should have been the story.

Cliff as a character doesn’t seem to develop in any direction. There is a fight scene between Cliff and Bruce Lee. Why? If the scene had remained on the cutting room floor, it would have made no difference. And Bruce is not painted in a good light. Does Tarantino have something against him?

You could spend your time in the theatre spotting where Tarantino pays homage to Hollywood of old as well as the large numbers of cameo appearances from various actors. Every scene goes for too long and I wonder why the editing wasn’t more vigilant. That’s not to say that cutting scenes would have overly saved this movie. If you’re looking for the classic Tarantino violence, there are some brief moments but you will mostly have to wait until the end for this anticipated over-choreographed scene. The music is good as you’d expect and the acting strong. But there’s no tension, just a flat series of scenes with uninteresting people. The highlight for me was the little girl and the dog who stole the show. Hippies are given a bad rap and history is subverted.

Why this movie has got the acclaim it has escapes me. Perhaps Tarantino’s star has also waned or perhaps I just expected so much more to keep me interested.

Let’s chat about reading and writing

Are you looking for something to do next Sunday afternoon in Melbourne? Why not spend a winter’s afternoon in the warmth of Bunjil Place Library? The fabulous library space is set within a newly built arts precinct at 2 Patrick Northeast Drive, Narre Warren.

Every Sunday afternoon, Bunjil Place Library hosts a different author where the community can get up close and ask those burning questions like, how long does it take to write a book? What do you like to read?

Browse through their collection of wonderful books, sit in a comfy snug then come and chat with me about my writing journey and hear all about my books, historical fiction, and short stories and ask your burning questions.

I just happen to be at Bunjil Place Library next Sunday 28 July from 2:00pm until 3:30 pm and you can ask away.

I hope to see you there.